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A foolproof method for achieving success through mistakes

The 7 steps to make systematic errors

Situations like the one in the cartoon are quite common, especially in organizations where the culture of blame has deep roots.

Situations that make us ask a few questions:

  • Why are we so afraid of error?
  • Can make mistakes, in certain circumstances, have advantages?
  • How can we transform error into a learning opportunity?

In this post, I want to tell you about the different types of errors we can make so that we can avoid the unwanted ones and consciously make the others.

Most importantly,

I want to introduce you to systematic error and ways to employ it successfully, over time.

Now let’s get right to the point.

The first type of error that we can make is the infringement of the law, or more generally of the rights of others, which is committed consciously; classic examples are corruption, tax evasion, false accounting and more: the list can be endless. Whoever deliberately violates the law seeks to gain advantages at the expense of others and to escape the law.

The second type of error is foolishness, which does not bring advantages to the author or even causes him damage; one becomes aware of the foolishness committed later, when one does not achieve the expected results or suffers damage. Foolishness is often accompanied by regret and can be generated by the unconscious infringement of the law, distraction or underestimation of the consequences of certain choices or actions.

The third type is latent errors, generated by conscious actions that have unexpected consequences. These actions can be generated by an erroneous perception of reality, by the mental traps to which we are exposed, by insufficient knowledge of the environment or of the task we are carrying out. The consequences of this type of error are visible only sometime later, when the outcomes become evident and remedying them is very difficult if not impossible. An example of a latent error is the one generated by the so-called liking bias, which leads us to buy things we don’t strictly need from people we like: we realize the error later, when the purchase has been made and the product is revealed as useless.

The fourth type of error is the systematic one, that is, the one we make intentionally to increase our knowledge. This type of error is rarely used both by individuals and organizations because, when we have to identify a solution of any kind, we tend to think to have a definite idea in our pocket and look for validation; a significant point, the validation of our intuition is also for us an indirect measure of our worth as a person. In support of the value of systematic error, I quote Thomas Edison, who knew quite a lot about inventions:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

The real measure of success is the number of experiments you can concentrate on in twenty-four hours.

At this point it is fair to ask a couple of questions:

  • Can a systematic error be dangerous?
  • To what extent can it also be applied to business management or even in everyday life?

Below are the 7 steps I suggest you follow:

  1. Identify new initiatives to pursue;
  2. Analyze them with the awareness that some may be successful, some may not;
  3. Consider error as a source of information and new knowledge;
  4. Be ready to see your beliefs disproved;
  5. The error must be sustainable, as the experiment must be meaningful but not so risky as to generate unbearable damage in case of failure;
  6. Analyze the experiment to understand where you made the error. If you won’t conduct a proper analysis you will give up on learning, the ultimate goal of systematic error;
  7. Carefully consider extending the use of what you learned to other contexts or at the organizational level.

If you transform these 7 points into a mental attitude, you will have taken an important step towards the success of your initiatives.

Just one thing to conclude: I can’t guarantee that an “expert” won’t tell you, when facing a systematic error, I told you it wouldn’t work, or it’s your fault.

But success can be worth a small sacrifice, don’t you think?

If want to know more about systematic error read this book.

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